Microsoft Taiwan is collaborating with the Taiwanese government, local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Internet service providers (ISPs) to make use of its PhotoDNA image-matching technology to stem the spread of online child pornography. Taiwan is the first country outside North America to implement PhotoDNA to curb child exploitation.
Child pornography remains one of the most persistent issues facing law enforcement agencies around the world. According to a United Nations report, there are more than 750,000 active Internet users worldwide who are believed to be paedophiles.
Developed by Microsoft Research in collaboration with Dartmouth College, the PhotoDNA technology helps to identify and remove images of child sexual exploitation from the Internet.
The basis for PhotoDNA is a technology called “robust hashing,” which calculates the distinct characteristics of a given digital image — its digital fingerprint — to match it to other copies of that same image. PhotoDNA can match images that are not digitally identical, making it possible to match images accurately and rapidly across millions of files — even if the photos contain subtle differences, such as having been resized.
Leveraging this powerful technology, Microsoft aims to help NGOs and government agencies expedite child pornography investigations in Taiwan. The PhotoDNA technology searches for and intercepts child pornography photos among the trillions of images floating around the Internet. When an image is intercepted and identified as child pornography, the ISP takes immediate action and reports them to the authorities by targeting the source of the original pictures.
The joint initiative is also in line with a recent amendment to the Children and Youth Welfare Law in Taiwan to improve the protection of young children and teenagers from sexual exploitation. At a press conference held to announce the new initiative, Hsueh Cherng-tay, Minister without Portfolio in Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, highlighted the importance of taking measures to ensure online safety for children.
“With Microsoft’s highly effective PhotoDNA technology, images of child sexual exploitations from the Internet can be quickly and precisely targeted and intercepted. The technology also helps to strengthen investigation into the sexual abuse of children and teenagers.”
– Hsueh Cherng-tay, Minister without Portfolio, Executive Yuan